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BY Steven D. GreydanusRegister Film Critic
Buck (2011) PICK
Dolphin Tale (2011) PICK
Midnight in Paris (2011) PICK
Two recent home-video releases offer family-friendly tales of sensitive humans helping animals in need — but by far the better of the two is the one you haven’t heard of and are more likely to miss. Don’t make that mistake!
Don’t miss Buck. Just don’t. You’ll be glad you saw it, I promise. Gorgeous, appealing and moving, Cindy Meehl’s heartfelt documentary (don’t stop there!) tribute to legendary horse trainer Buck Brannaman is one of the year’s best and most inspiring films.
Buck is much more than “horse whisperer” mystique, although Brannaman was the real-life inspiration for the novel The Horse Whisperer and the film by Robert Redford (who appears briefly here).
Although Brannaman says that his work is less about “helping people with horse problems” than “helping horses with people problems,” Buck is ultimately about what it means to be human — how we face and overcome adversity and how defining traumas in our past can cripple us or inspire us to transcend them. Warmly recommended.
Dolphin Tale is okay too. It’s a movie very loosely inspired by the true story of a dolphin named Winter who lost her flukes (tail fins) after becoming entangled in a crab-trap rope.
In many ways, it’s reminiscent of the earlier, better Soul Surfer: Both are fact-based tales about a maimed creature of the sea who has to learn to cope and swim in the absence of a lost extremity and who becomes an inspiration to others with handicaps. Both feature bohemian ocean-loving parent(s) with a home-schooled daughter who has inherited the parent’s marine preoccupation. (The daughter even prays, though here to her late mother rather than God.)
It’s okay, but where Soul Surfer let Bethany Hamilton really struggle with the trauma of her loss, Dolphin Tale pulls its punches, both with regard to the young hero’s absent father (why?) and his cousin’s war-related injury. There are too many clichés, including the inevitable threat to the aquarium’s future. But Winter (playing herself) is a charismatic star, and the underwater photography is gorgeous.
Finally, is Midnight in Paris really the must-see Woody Allen film it’s cracked up to be? Pretty much, yes. Owen Wilson’s sunny So-Cal disposition and the magic of Paris soften Allen’s characteristic cynicism, and the result is a charming, almost hopeful film — a charmingly nostalgic tale about nostalgia, about seeing through the illusion of nostalgia, and yet not being disillusioned; about cherishing the past, while living in the present. Despite some content caveats, it’s a rewarding film that should put a smile on your face.
CONTENT ADVISORY: Buck: Mild language; some mature themes, including parental child abuse; an injury. Kids and up. Dolphin Tale: Mildly disturbing content relating to dolphin and human injuries. Kids and up. Midnight in Paris: A handful of profanities; recurring sexually themed dialogue, including discussions of characters’ affairs and proclivities. Adults.